I’ve been talking about visiting Marfa – the mystical town in far West Texas – since I first heard of it.
Snuggle in the middle of the Texan desert – at nearly 20 miles from the next village and almost 200 from the nearest major airport, when my friends and I decided to drive over there, we didn’t know what an epic quest we were about to embark.
Our starting point was Dallas, TX at 524 mi from our final destination. Driving for eight hours to see something everyone’s raving about, sounds crazy – and IT IS. If it wasn’t for the brand new 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE I got to drive; we wouldn’t have made it. The Dynamic Radar Cruise Control was a life saver on our way back. Thank you, Toyota for loaning me the car!
Most people fly to Midland-Odesa o El Paso, which provides the shortest route to town (just under three hours) but since you’ll have the expense of renting a car, might as well fly to Dallas. Hopping here from anywhere else in the country is relatively cheap, besides the places we were able to discover by making this road trip were TOTALLY worth the long-ass drive.
Our first stop: Sweetwater, TX. (About three hours from DFW International Airport, – along I-20). Sweetwater is home to one of the Top 10 largest wind farms in the United States. Some of these wind turbines are twice as high as the Statue of Liberty, with their blades spanning as wide as the wingspan of a jumbo jet. – I guess they weren’t joking when they say everything is bigger in Texas. Is hard to miss the wind turbines, and there’s plenty of photo opportunities, but taking exit 230 will get you a closer look.
Up next, located 30 miles from Odessa beside I-20, you’ll find Monahans Sandhills State Park – A 3,840-acre section of rolling dunes that stretches 200 miles across Texas and into New Mexico.
As soon as we entered the park, we were taken aback by this natural wonder. There was magical energy to it, – which will explain why we ended up spending more time than planned, enjoying this unique place. Daily entrance fees are $4 for adults, and you can even camp for $15 per site.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t make it to Balmorhea State Park, our next stop in my carefully crafted itinerary. For those with better time management skills, here’s what you need to know. Here you’ll find the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool and is located about an hour and a half drive from Monahans, TX. The Civilian Conservation Corps built Balmorhea State Park in the 1930s where more than 15 million gallons of water flow through the pool each day, gushing from the San Solomon Springs. The pool is up to 25 feet deep, covers 1.3 acres, and holds 3.5 million gallons of water. The temperature stays at 72 to 76 degrees year-round, which makes it perfect to swim, snorkel or even scuba dive. It was such a bummer we weren’t able to visit this spot; my Mr. Turk swim briefs would have looked so good against this beautiful destination.
After driving for what it felt like an eternity, we finally arrived in Marfa. After briefly breaking into what we thought it was our pad, we ultimately found the House on the Hill. This exquisitely updated, turn-of-the-century adobe home offers all the amenities my friends, and I needed to become temporary Marfa residents. Staying at this lush compound genuinely made our Marfa trip exceptional. – I will be sharing more details about it in my upcoming blog post.
Now, let’s talk about food. There are plenty of places with fantastic menus – but we quickly found out every spot has odd hours of operations. Since we arrived super late and starved, we opted for Pizza Foundation. An old garage turned restaurant that sits below House on the Hill. Hand-tossed- thin-crust pizzas are their specialty. We ordered and picked it up.
For a healthy breakfast, Squeeze Marfa has vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options. The atmosphere is vibrant – with orange accents all around. For coffee, Do Your Thing is the place to go. We wanted to try Marfa Burritos (Matthew McConaughey’s favorites), but they weren’t open while we were there – told you, bizarre things happen in Marfa.
Jet’s Grill at the historic Hotel Paisano – that once hosted Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, and Rock Hudson, while they were filming the classic Giant, is ideal for a sit-down dinner. The restaurant has tons of character. The gorgeous courtyard with fountain and pool on the side of the building is its best feature.
We grabbed a beer at Lost Horse Saloon. This dive bar is the local’s favorite. With live music and outdoor patio, it’s an authentic West Texas experience. We even got invited to an after party. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find the address – and the town has like five streets.
The art scene in Marfa wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Donald Judd, an artist who moved from New York to Marfa in 1977. Therefore, the first thing we did was visiting The Chinati Foundation. Opened to the public in 1986, the independent, non-profit, publicly funded institution was initially conceived to exhibit the work of Donald Judd. The collection includes the monumental outdoor concrete works by Donald which I was dying to see.
There’s something about concrete that fills my designer heart with joy. When I was packing, I already had a vision in my head on what I wanted to wear: head to toe Mr. Turk look. My pictures turned out so freaking AMAZING; they were flagged on Instagram for copyright infringement (I assume by Chinati) – true story. I had to explain Instagram I owned the rights to those photos, plus describe they were no part of any commercial campaign. After fifteen days hidden, they’re successfully back on my feed. You will think the museum will appreciate the coverage, apparently not.
Before planning this trip, I thought -like most people do, that PRADA Marfa was an actual store. Well, it’s not! The storefront is a stand-alone installation. Berlin-based artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset built the cultural landmark in 2005 with the help of the Marfa art collective and Ballroom Marfa.
Miuccia Prada herself donated the purses and shoes on display. You will find it about 26 miles northwest of the city. We were told that there’s nothing quite so dramatic or gorgeous as a West Texas sunset, that’s why we got there right before the sun went down.
Even though the installation is LITERALLY in the middle of nowhere, I was surprised by how busy it was.
At some point, a group of young tourists pulled over and spent almost an hour taking selfies (eye-roll). Chel – my photographer, was not happy. They were getting in the way of us doing our job. In the end, everything worked out.
The road from Prada back to Marfa led us to the old Stardust Motel, where you’ll find a glowing neon sign that reads Stardust MARFA.
Austin artist and signmaker Evan Voyles, of The Neon Jungle, recently refurbished the old neon sign. I’m a sucker for anything neon, of course, I had to stop. We took a bunch of photos; you should take some too.
We couldn’t leave Marfa empty-handed. We explore the streets and came across gift shops as eclectic as the town itself. My first purchase was a super cool tee from Cobra Rock. They’re well-known for their beautiful and handcrafted boots; I wish I could afford. At Mano Mercantile, I got a customized brass bandana ring, ready to blend in with the locals. Per recommendation of my friend William Baker – who owns a house in town, we visited Wrong Marfa. Once a church, this gallery display artsy wares from local, regional, and global artists, including the works of one of the owners – Camp Bosworth. His wife, Buck Johnston runs the place, such a friendly lady.
We spent three days in Marfa that was not enough to explore everything this charming town has to offer. On our way out, we drove along State Highway 17, 22 mi north of Marfa, to Fort Davis, TX. Here, we got our appetite under control at the Fort Davis Drug Store. Once a full-fledged pharmacy, nowadays this business is best at curating Texas-sized meals and malts.
Our last stop was Davis Mountains State Park, were the views of Davis Mountains are breathtaking.
By the way, windy mornings with temperatures in the 30s and 40s will transition to beautiful, sunny in the 60s afternoons, – that’s West Texas weather. Be prepared for layering. Pack some jeans, tees, comfortable shoes, a light jacket (denim) and of course, your cowboy hat. Other Marfa essentials: sunscreen, sunglasses, and cash. There’re only three ATMs in Marfa (none from major banks), so you’re better off bringing some money.